When I was a teenager, I was told that I probably grew up depressed. I have had reoccurring episodes of depression my entire life so I guess the term chronically depressed fits. Most of time, I would say it doesn’t disrupt my life. Everyone has natural ups and downs and as I have matured I have learned to recognize these and function quite well. I think the difference is that I do not handle what everyone else would say is a normal life challenges well. Losing a job, end of a relationship, divorce, death of a loved one—all send me down a spiral and a hole that is hard to crawl out of. These are the times that I need professional help in the form of medication and therapy. I’ve learned to recognize this too as I have matured. The most important thing I have learned is to hide my depression from others.
Despite all of the information available about a host of mental illness’ including depression, there is still a stigma with being diagnosed. Discrimination comes in many forms—educational opportunities, housing, and employment. Sure, no one will come out and say that your diagnosis was the reason you were denied these things, but sometimes there is no other explanation. In a right to work state like Florida, an employer really doesn’t have to have a “reason” for not hiring you or for termination.
There are social implications as well. There are those who without even knowing the situation will ostracize a person once the diagnosis is disclosed. I attended a relationship discussion group once where several people said that they would not even enter a relationship with someone who had ANY mental health diagnosis regardless of whether or not it was under control. I was appalled and offended. I have also learned that when my depression is not under control to hide it simply because people don’t want to be around a “sad” person and will naturally want to rid themselves of the negativity.
So I think there are many of my mentally ill brothers and sisters who hide their diagnosis. We are your family members, neighbors, and co-workers. We are the cashier you buy coffee from as well as your child’s teacher. We can be your mailman, repairman, or your lawyer. Whether or not you want to be exposed to a mentally ill person, you are going to be.
Some things people may not know about me and my depression and I think others who have varied mental illness will relate to:
- Don’t assume because I have a mental illness that I can’t do something. I function quite well at my job.
- Don’t expect me to be “sad” all of the time even when I am severely depressed. I can go out to a party and actually have a good time.
- Do invite me to your party or get together or just to hang out. I appreciate being made to feel wanted and included so please do invite me to things.
- Don’t ask me if I have taken my medication after I complain about something you did or didn’t do. This is infuriating and it invalidates my feelings.
- Don’t automatically fear me. Even though I have been a danger to myself in the past, I don’t have thoughts of harming others.